Many Zimbabwean Christians hope that the HIV/AIDS pandemic will be a major subject of discussion when the World Council of Churches (WCC) holds its assembly in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, in December.

Melaku Kifle, the WCC's coordinator for refugees and migration, told ENI Wednesday, soon after returning to Geneva from Zimbabwe where he had a spent a month discussing the assembly with local churches, that he was "shocked" by the extent of AIDS in the southern African country."Church people told me that every week 700 people die

from AIDST, and when I went from village to village I saw proof of that. People in the villages told me: `We spend our time burying people.' "

Kifle said that the churches and the nation's main ecumenical organization, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, were playing an important role in boosting growing awareness of the risk of the virus.